CONYERS - It wasn't pretty, but Rockdale's basketball squads started off 2008 with a sweep of Clarkston on Friday at Rockdale High School.
The Lady Bulldogs picked up their fourth win of the season with a 49-30 win in the opener, while the Rockdale boys moved to 7-3 with a 55-44 victory in the nightcap.
The Rockdale girls had about as bad a first quarter as a team can have, scoring just one point in the frame.
Down 10-1, the Lady Bulldogs turned it around in the second quarter, outscoring Clarkston 21-7 to lead 22-17 at the break. The Lady Bulldogs finished off the frame with a 15-0 run.
The Lady Bulldogs came out with much of the same intensity in the second half and were able to widen the gap between them and Clarkston. Rockdale went up by 10 halfway through the third quarter and never looked back.
Rockdale coach Leonard Buckner said the key to digging out of that first-quarter hole was better execution.
"We emphasized executing on offense and not taking quick shots. We were trying to force the ball inside early, but from the second quarter on, we were working our offense and getting the ball inside like we wanted to, and it made a difference," he said.
Buckner said the final four minutes of the second frame - in which the Lady Bulldogs outscored Clarkston 15-0 - was the boost the Lady Bulldogs needed.
"That was very big," he said. "Momentum is a great thing, and to have it on our side was big. For us to start out so slow then have that happen, that was huge."
Miasia Burks led the Bulldog offense with 12 points - 11 of which came in the second quarter. Porshia Cleveland added eight points and Jasmine Miller chipped in seven.
In contrast, the Rockdale boys had a fast start against Clarkston and led 17-13 after the first frame.
And although the two teams combined for 30 first-quarter points, they combined to score just 33 points over the next two quarters.
Rockdale led 29-19 at the half and 36-27 by the end of the third frame.
However, Clarkston kept chipping away at the Bulldogs in the fourth quarter and eventually cut Rockdale's lead to one, 45-44, with 1:05 left to play.
Rockdale's Scott Condale hit a pair of free throws with 26 seconds left to put the Bulldogs up 47-44 and Clarkston's 3-pointer to tie the game came up short with six seconds left on the clock. After a couple of fouls and a few more free throws, Rockdale had earned a win.
Rockdale boys coach Mitchell Harris said games like this are part of the maturation process.
"Our team is trying to establish a defensive identity, and we're very anxious on offense. We still talk about how defense wins games, but we're trying to be what we're not on offense," he said. "I think the players are trying to do a little too much. Once we become more proficient on defense, I think things will open up more for them on offense. Right now, we're just trying to find our identity."
Darius McKnight led the way for the Bulldogs. McKnight owned the paint and led the Bulldogs with a team-high 16 points - 10 of which came in the first half. Duane Ferrell added nine points and Kevin Ware contributed six.
Both Rockdale squads hit the court again today against Loganville at The Inferno.
Brandon Evans can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.